life on a smallholding

not quite a business, but more than a hobby

Condensing — Thursday, 19th September

Condensing

Condensed, sweetened goats milk
Condensed, sweetened goats milk

The Great British Bake Off episode this week was another gem.  Traybakes, tuiles and towers of biscuits.  Loved the first two challenges but the third was a little over the top.  I can’t help but worry about having to eat the confections and I really didn’t fancy a bite of that Dalek.

I think certain contestants are beginning to win me over with their personalities, if not there baking and there certainly seems to be a great sense of camaraderie this year, which is lovely to see.

The tension was as sharp as ever and I found myself gasping when they were wrapping those thin bits of baked batter around the spoon handles, remembering a similar experience when I made my own ice-cream cones.  You really do need asbestos fingers. traybakecut

This week coincidentally, I made my own traybake.  Toffee shortbread, recipe here.  The challenge for me was not the bake but the fact that I made my own sweetened, condensed milk from my goats.

It really is simple to make but unless you happen to have a Rayburn that’s running all day, every day, it could work out quite expensive.  The milk needs to barely simmer for at least 4 hours.

I left it steaming away whilst I got on with my day and eventually it was ready to strain and leave to cool, when it thickened up nicely.  Although it did seem to separate slightly, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the taste.

Smoothing the shortbread
Smoothing the shortbread

For the shortbread layer in my traybake I used goat’s butter.  The resulting mixture was rather like putty so instead of trying to roll it out, I pressed it into the base of my tin and smoothed it out with my cake polisher.  It worked really well and made a good foundation for the next layer.

The condensed milk worked perfectly and made a lovely golden toffee which I poured over the shortbread and left to firm up before finally adding the chocolate.  As Himself is not keen on plain I used half milk chocolate.  I also added a couple of tablespoons of cream – goat’s cream, of course!

When the chocolate had set, I cut the whole thing into 9 fairly large squares.  Whilst it tasted fantastic, it was incredibly sweet and a whole square was just too much in one sitting.  In fact I experienced quite a sugar rush.  We decided that half a square was a more appropriate portion.

My first experiment with condensing was a great success and I’m guessing that you could make evaporated milk in the same fashion but just leave out the sugar.

Another great use I’ve found for my plentiful goat’s milk

Sweetened condensed milk

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients
  • 1 litre milk (I used goat’s milk)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbls butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
Instructions
  1. Pour the cold milk into a saucepan and place on a low heat.
  2. Add the sugar and stir until well combined.
  3. Let the mixture warm up until it is just starting to simmer.
  4. Keep the temperature low to prevent the milk separating.
  5. Leave to reduce for at least 4 hours or longer.
  6. A skin will form which can be removed.
  7. When the milk has reached the desired consistency, remove from the heat.
  8. Strain through muslin into a clean bowl.
  9. Stir in the butter and vanilla and mix well.
  10. Pour into a clean jar and seal the top.
  11. Allow to cool and then keep in the fridge until completely cold where it will thicken up a bit more.
  12. Use as normal condensed milk.
  13. It should keep for a week or so in the fridge.

A whole square was just too much for one person
A whole square was just too much for one person
Toffee shortbread
A more appropriate portion of toffee shortbread
Advertisements
A mere trifle — Thursday, 5th September

A mere trifle

Rhubarb trifle with whipped goat cream
Rhubarb trifle with vanilla custard and whipped goat cream

The signature “bake” this week on the Great British Bake Off  was the humble trifle.  One of my all-time favourites which I make instead of Christmas pudding every year. When I was a child my mother would cook a roast dinner every Sunday.  Most weeks she would bake a cake, usually from a packet mix and I would get to lick the bowl.  She would also make a trifle for dessert.  This too was from a packet, the good old Bird’s trifle.  I loved the cream and the custard but I was never very keen on the jelly layer.  However, this became my idea of the perfect trifle and when I made my own trifles, not from a packet, they never quite tasted the same. I watched with interest when Heston Blumenthal was in Pursuit of Perfection and attempted to make the ultimate trifle.  It was a long and complicated recipe but I did try a couple of his ideas.  For instance, beating some ground tapioca into the cream makes it taste remarkably like “Dream Topping”.  Another little thing I tried was adding a layer of black olive jam but I’m not sure that was my idea of a perfect trifle.

I got this mould for Christmas and I intended to make tea cakes as demonstrated on the Bake Off last year but so far all I used it for is trifle sponges.
I got this mould for Christmas and I intended to make tea cakes as demonstrated on the Bake Off last year but so far I’ve only used it for trifle sponges

As you may expect the contestants on the bake-off produced a wide range of exotic desserts, not really my cup of tea.  If it hasn’t got hundreds and thousands on the top, it’s not a trifle as far as I’m concerned.  In fact I rarely even add a glass of sherry. I always bake my trifle sponges a few days in advance and they freeze well.  I use a simple fatless sponge or alternatively a Swiss roll recipe is perfect.  In fact the last time I made a Swiss roll I couldn’t fit all the batter onto the tin so I poured the leftover into tea cake moulds and they made the cutest little sponges yet.

Trifle sponges

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A simple fatless sponge, perfect for trifles
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 45g plain flour
  • 25g cornflour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Instructions
  1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and beat thoroughly
  2. Grease and line a small cake tin
  3. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch
  4. Turn out on a wire rack to cool
Trifle sponge spread with jam
Trifle sponge spread with jam

For the custard I use one of Delia’s recipes which includes cornflour.  If it gets over-heated and goes horribly wrong, just tip in a clean bowl, beat well with a whisk and it should return to a smooth custard. The jelly layer is made up of whatever fruit I have to hand.  I usually simmer it in a little water then add 3 sheets of gelatine to get it to set. To assemble my perfect trifle I spread the sponges with jam, arrange them in my bowl, then pour over the jelly.  This goes into the fridge and when set the custard goes on top.  I usually put in back in the fridge with a layer of cling film on top to stop a skin forming. All the above can be done the day before.  On the day itself, I add the lightly whipped goat cream layer and finally finish it off with hundreds and thousands – what else?

My perfect trifle
My perfect trifle

 

English Muffins for a British bake off — Thursday, 29th August

English Muffins for a British bake off

English muffins
English muffins

After rushing around walking dogs and milking goats I finally managed to get seated in front of the box just in time for the start of the second in the series of the Great British Bake Off.

Their first task was breadsticks, something I’ve never attempted to make.  They appeared deceptively easy but I bet it’s tricky to achieve that “snap”.  There was only one that was slightly overboard, the sticks presented in a giant matchbox with the ends dipped in chocolate.  Very clever.

The technical challenge was something I make regularly, English muffins.  After last year when they had to make an 8 strand loaf, this looked like a piece of cake.  Again it was interesting to see the amount of variations produced from just one recipe.

The final test was to make a decorative loaf.  I was amazed to see a peacock, an octopus and a wreath to name just a few.  They reminded me of decorations made with salt dough and I didn’t think they looked terribly appetising but apparently they tasted good.  It was sad that the person who was eliminated was the only one that baked something actually resembling a loaf, albeit that it was trying to be a tomato!

Muffins rising
Muffins rising

As usual the programme inspired me to bake and I dug out my favourite recipe for English Muffins.  Unlike the enriched dough on shown on TV, this one is very simple and is relatively quick to make.  As they found on the Bake Off, it can be difficult to get them cooked all the way through and in the past I have popped them in the Rayburn for 10 mins after frying just to make sure.  If the worst should happen and you find they are doughy inside you can always toast them before serving.

English muffins

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Quick, simple, but utterly delicious toasted and spread with butter.
Ingredients
  • 450g bread flour
  • 9g dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 250ml milk
  • 55ml water
Instructions
  1. Warm the milk and water together until just hand hot
  2. Whisk in the caster sugar and yeast and leave until frothy
  3. Pour the mixture into a food processor
  4. Add the flour and salt and mix well with a dough hook
  5. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball
  6. Leave somewhere warm in a covered bowl for around an hour to rise
  7. Spread some semolina onto the work surface then turn out the dough
  8. Roll out to approx 1/2 inch thick and then use a pastry cutter to cut into rounds (I got 8 muffins with a 3 1/4″ cutter)
  9. Sprinkle a little more semolina on the top of the muffins
  10. Allow to rise for around 30 mins somewhere warm
  11. Melt a little lard in a frying pan and when hot add the muffins (you will need to do them in batches)
  12. Cook them for around 7 mins each side until they are golden brown top and bottom
  13. Place on a wire rack to cool
  14. If you are not confident that they are cooked through, pop in a hot oven for around 10 mins
  15. Cut in half and serve with lashings of butter or you can toast them first

Absolutely perfect.

My 8 strand plaited loaf from last year - it made a fantastic BLT
My 8 strand plaited loaf from last year – it made a fantastic BLT
Nothing but the goat — Sunday, 14th July

Nothing but the goat

My All-Goat pie made with goat chunks and goat butter pastry
My All-Goat pie made with goat chunks and goat butter pastry

Our goats are valuable assets, they provide us with fresh milk daily, too much to drink.  I use it to make butter, ice cream and cheese.   There is whey leftover from the cheesemaking and that can be used instead of water for bread.

But there is another side to keeping goats, in order for them to produce the milk, they need to have kids.  Females are usually kept for breeding while the males at some point, just like lambs, go away to slaughter.

Goat meat is not just for curries, you can use it just like lamb or beef.  In fact we find that it tastes like a slightly gamey beef.  It certainly doesn’t have any tang to it.  I have noticed that there are small companies popping up all over the place now, supplying a growing market in goat meat.

I have recreated all our favourite recipes with goat, in some using slightly different herbs and spices but others, such as bolognese, are made exactly the same as when I use beef.

Nothing but the goat

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
A gorgeous pie made with goat butter pastry and tender goat chunks.
Ingredients
  • 500g goat chunks
  • 25g flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 50g goat butter
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbls chopped lemon balm
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 free-range whole egg beaten
  • 300g puff pastry approx (see recipe)
Instructions
  1. Dip the meat into the seasoned flour, then place a large lidded pan on the hob.
  2. Heat half the butter in the pan and add the meat. Sear all over until golden brown.
  3. Add the vegetables and herbs, then pour in the stock. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and gently simmer on the stove for approx 2 hours. Add a little water if it starts to dry out – you want some gravy inside the pie.
  4. Preheat the oven to 220C.
  5. Once cooked, season the meat and add the remaining butter, stirring until melted.
  6. Roll out a third of the pastry using as little flour as possible and line the base of the pie dish.
  7. With the remainder of the pastry, roll out the pie lid, ensuring it’s large enough to cover the pie.
  8. Spoon the filling into the lined pie dish and spread out evenly.
  9. Brush the rim of the pastry with beaten egg and lay the lid in position. Trim the edges and pinch the pastry together all the way round. Any leftover pastry can be cut into shapes and laid on top.
  10. Paint the beaten egg over the top of the pie.
  11. Pierce a hole in the centre of the pastry to let the steam escape.
  12. Place on a hot baking tray and cook in the oven for 40-50 minutes until the pastry is golden brown on top.
  13. Serve with new potatoes or seasonal veg.

You can find the recipe for Goat Butter pastry here.

Goat pie served with new potatoes
Goat pie served with new potatoes

 

Goat butter pastry —

Goat butter pastry

Homemade goat's butter
Homemade goat’s butter

Making your own goat butter is not an option open to everyone and although you can buy it in the supermarket, I have no idea how it compares to homemade.  With it being pure white, it looks more like lard, but I have found that it makes a really lovely, crispy pastry, which tastes lighter than that made with butter from a cow.

Goat butter pastry

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A buttery pasty, perfect for pie crusts

Ingredients
  • 225g plain flour
  • 170g butter
  • pinch salt
  • enough iced water to bring it all together
Instructions
  1. Sift the flour and the salt into your bowl.
  2. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the flour mix.
  3. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour leaving largish lumps. The butter should still visible throughout the flour.
  4. Gradually add the water until the mixture starts to come together and forms into a ball.
  5. Tip the mixture out onto cling film, pat into a circle, wrap firmly and leave in the fridge for about an hour.
  6. When ready to use, sprinkle a little flour on the worksurface, unwrap the cling film and take out as much dough as you need for the pie base, returning the rest to the fridge.
  7. Roll out to the desired shape and size, then place in the bottom of your pie dish.
  8. Make sure you roll out the pie lid before putting the hot filling in the dish.
  9. You may find it easier to roll out the dough on some lightly floured cling film and then use this to lift the pastry onto the dish.
  10. This is a very soft pastry and if it does break, it can be patched up easily.

 

Making pastry
Making pastry